Friday, April 13, 2012

Use Your Muscle, Carve It Out, Work It, Hustle

While blogging regularly was not one of my New Year's Resolutions, losing some weight was. 

After the (good) stress of getting married and planning a wedding, the (good) stress of buying our first house, and the (not so good) stress of losing my dad, I found that I had spent about 2.5 years developing some not-so-fantastic habits where eating and exercising are concerned. 

Back when I was in college, I was in decent shape because I walked everywhere and had the metabolism of the 20-year-old that I was. When I moved back home after college for a few months in May of 2008, I started being more sedentary working at a desk job, so I got myself a Y membership. With everything that was going on at home with my dad's illness and the chaos that surrounded it, the gym was an escape. I lived at home, so the hefty price tag for the gym didn't seem so bad because my expenses were minimal. I was relatively healthy, and in decent shape, going to classes 3 days a week.

When Alex and I moved in together in December of 2008, my gym membership got dropped because it was suddenly a luxury that I couldn't afford. Luckily I was in decent shape, so it didn't seem like that big of a sacrifice, but as I stopped going to the gym, I started to get into those bad habits I mentioned before. Dad was sick and going to visit was difficult. When I wasn't over there helping, I was at home recovering -- lying on the couch like a lump and eating junk food and drinking wine. When Dad passed away, it only got worse, and I slowly started to gain weight. It was definitely part of the grieving process, so I allowed myself a little leeway. I understand that at that time in my life, I needed to be gentle with myself, so a few extra pounds were small price to pay for dealing with enormous grief.

When we moved into our house in April 2010, I still couldn't afford the gym but was a full 10 pounds from my college weight, so I bought myself the Chalean Extreme program from Beach Body as a compromise. Spending $100 one time seemed reasonable rather than spending $55/month on a gym membership. I also supplemented those workouts with running on the elliptical at the gym my work provides a membership to for $6/month. It worked for a while, but I learned a lot about myself trying to do this program, going to the gym, and being self-motivated. 

It turns out I am self motivated enough to get started, but I am not motivated enough to make it through long, difficult workouts without some encouragement. I had done much better at the Y where taking a class meant working hard with 30 other people around you. Giving up and quitting halfway through the class was embarrassing, and not an option as far as my pride was concerned. After a few months of starting and restarting Chalean about 20 different times and never getting very far, I sucked it up, reworked my budget, and found the money to rejoin the Y.

On December 13th, 2011, I decided to commit for real this time. Four months later, I am more than halfway to my goal of returning to (and staying at) my college weight. There were a few things that have made the difference this time.

First and foremost, I think I am just finally ready to make a change. I have been working on being kinder to myself in all aspects of my life because I have realized that I tend to be extremely hard on myself -- and helping myself to be a healthier person is one of the kindest things I can do for me. I am working every day to be the person I want to be, and being healthy is a part of that plan.

I joined, and have tracked my food and exercise every single day, even when I have a "bad" day and go over my calories. (I figure that I can lie to the food tracker, but what's the point when your body keeps an accurate record no matter what you tell yourself?) Sometimes it's tough to see what I have eaten, but seeing it there in black and white makes it easier to own up to and do better next time. Also, Livestrong helps me figure out what I should be eating and has helped me to balance out my diet better and control my portions. Did you know that one scone can be over 800 calories? I didn't. Also, Alex is bigger than me. It was a huge lesson to realize that if I wanted to stay smaller than him, I'd better stop eating the same amount of food as him at every meal.

And if I really want that scone or ice cream or giant gooey fudgy chocolate brownie? I exercise, and enter it into the Fitness tracker, and go ahead and eat it! Trying to be better about eating doesn't mean starving myself or giving up the stuff I love. It wouldn't work for me if it did. If I slip up and eat something really terrible, I don't feel guilty about it. I just try to make up for it later in the week, and am gentle with myself about needing to eat junk every once in a while. The difference is, it's the exception, not the rule anymore. I am creating good habits.

Here's an example of one of the charts Livestrong proivdes that helps keep me motivated as I go along. You can see that I have had some ups and downs, but if you keep things in perspective (looking at the whole 4 months instead of just this week), it makes it easier to see and appreciate progress.

I joined, which is a website that makes exercise a game. When you work out, you track your fitness and gain points to level up. My husband and quite a few of my friends play as well, so it makes working out a competition not only with yourself, but with your friends. I personally love being able to gloat about kicking my coworker's asses and being three levels higher than them around the coffee pot on Monday morning.

I have a gym buddy. Even though she's not always there because she's as busy as I am, I have done much better this time around because my Aunt Lynn meets me at the gym and we do our classes together. It's really hard to talk yourself into skipping a workout when you know someone is counting on you to be there. We push each other and have both lost more weight this time around because we have each other for support. Also, we motivate each other to change up which classes we go to. I think we have officially been to all but two of the classes offered at the Y right now, and we do at least one new or different class a week.

I have a weight loss marble jar, which sound ridiculous, but is actually really motivating. Sitting on my kitchen counter at home, I have one "To Lose" jar that started out holding one marble for every half pound I want to lose. For each half pound I lose, I move one marble to the "lost weight" jar. It's a really easy, visual way to track your progress, and like a kindergartner, I really look forward to moving marbles from one jar to the other. The one pictured below is from Pinterest, which is where I got the idea.

I hold myself accountable by posting to Facebook when I make progress. Seeing the outpouring of positive reinforcement and encouragement from friends as I achieve goals makes it all the sweeter. I find myself looking forward to being able to say I lost another half-a-pound or pound.

I surround myself with positivity and motivation. Speaking of Pinterest, I currently have an entire board dedicated to Working Out and Motivation. It's awesome. Pinterest is also great for healthy recipes! (And as a side note, I also have a bad day go to board called Pure Happiness, which is filled with cute animals and babies. Talk about a bad mood buster). In addition to motivation I create for myself, I keep company with other people who are trying to do better with their fitness. Social networking is ridiculously cool for this. My friend Angelina ran 11 miles today. How could that not be motivating? My friends inspire me to be better, and hopefully I inspire them in return.